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AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2013 Jul;34(7):1462-7. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A3406. Epub 2013 Feb 14.

Development of the fetal cerebral cortex in the second trimester: assessment with 7T postmortem MR imaging.

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  • 1Research Center for Sectional and Imaging Anatomy, Shandong University School of Medicine, Shandong, China.



Few investigators have analyzed the fetal cerebral cortex with MR imaging of high magnetic strength. Our purpose was to document the sulcal development and obtain quantitative measurements of the fetal brain in the second trimester.


The brains of 69 fetal specimens, with GA 12-22 weeks, were first scanned on a 7T MR imaging scanner. Then the sequential development of the different fissures and sulci was analyzed, and quantitative measurements of the cerebral cortex were obtained.


A new chronology of sulcal development during 12-22 weeks GA was summarized. Before 12 weeks, few sulci were present; by 16 weeks, many sulci were present. The 16th week could be considered the most intensive time point for sulcal emergence. Most sulci, except for the postcentral sulcus and intraparietal sulcus, were present by 22 weeks GA. Measurements of the fetal brains, each with different growth rates, linearly increased with GA, but no sexual dimorphisms or cerebral asymmetries were detected.


The second trimester is the most important phase, during which most sulci are present and can be clearly shown on 7T postmortem MR imaging. It is apparent that the specific time during which neuropathologic features of sulci appear, previously thought to be well understood, should be redefined. Quantitative data provide assistance in the precise understanding of the immature brain. The present results are valuable in anatomic education, research, and assessment of normal brain development in the uterus.

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